Thanksgiving celebration120 years ago
BIG RAPIDS — A time of togetherness in warm cozy homes with the aroma of oven-roasted turkeys with all the fixings and freshly baked pies permeating the senses is a tradition among many families each Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving evolved to become one of the most beloved holidays among American families, but 120 years ago, Thanksgiving was more of a community celebration, and even then, the holiday had come a long ways from early settlement in the area, when just mere acknowledgment of the day was sufficient. No fanfare was given.
Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 24 in 1898, when the sun was setting on the 19th Century and the end of the Spanish-American War was nearing.
Accounts from the Big Rapids Pioneer gave a picture of the local scene during Thanksgiving of 1898.
Businesses in town shut down for the day to celebrate the holiday as a community.
“That the Pioneer force may have an opportunity to attend the Union Thanksgiving services at the First Methodist Episcopal Church and have suitable time to devote to the annual Thanksgiving dinner, no paper will be issued from this office tomorrow.
As this is the one day in the year set apart by our government for Thanksgiving, let us lay aside business and pleasure for one hour in the day and unite in thanking God for the blessings to us as a nation and as a city,” Nov. 23, 1898.
It was written in the Pioneer how momentum of celebrating Thanksgiving grew favorably among local communities throughout the decades.
“Thanksgiving in Big Rapids passed off very much as it has done several times before. The weather was cooler than it was a year ago, but it was not at all bad In fact, the weather was quite pleasant. Not many years ago, Thanksgiving in Big Rapids wasn’t very much different from any other day.
“But few were seen at the religious services which were held in accordance with suggestions of the author of the Thanksgiving proclamation, and nearly every kind of business carried on about as energetically as ever.
“In other words, comparatively few paused in their work long enough to give proper attention to the matter of giving thanks for the manifold blessings received. But the day is becoming more a thanksgiving day.
“Business of nearly every kind is now partially suspended during a portion of the day, and although the largest church in the city was used this year for the union services, the house was only about sufficient to comfortably accommodate the people who gathered to hear the sermon. Nearly every seat was occupied, and the collection for the poor of the city amounted to $16.33.
“The services were of a patriotic nature, and were comparatively short, admitting of all getting home in good season. There were a few family gatherings, but in a majority of instances, the families took dinner by themselves, as usual.
“Some went away from home, and some entertained friends from outside, while in a number of instances people took dinner at a neighbor’s.